Over the past year plus, we have had the pleasure of working with Charlottesville resident Whit Faulconer on his new start up, Bubuti. What is Bubuti, you say? It’s an online destination that enables artists to sell their music for causes that they care about. On Bubuti, everyone benefits: Artists engage their fans and broaden their audiences, listeners add exclusive new tunes to their music library, and charities receive much-needed support.
Whit came to me in 2010 with a logo and the business idea. We had to pass at first because the timing was not right, but Whit came back to us months later to take his idea from concept to reality. We spent a good portion of 2011 doing that, culminating with a trip to Austin this March for SXSW (South by Southwest) to promote and discuss Bubuti with musicians and those in the music industry.
Starting with an intense requirements phase, we worked with Whit on defining what the product needed to get to market. We started with a long list of features, but we analyzed and scrutinized every one to determine what had to go into this initial phase. We always challenge ourselves and our clients to determine the feature set for a launch. It’s the process of deciding what your site or app actually needs vs. what is simply nice to have. We never want the nice to haves to get in the way of launching a product. As it says on the posters in the Facebook headquarters, “Done is better than Perfect.” That is the attitude we take here at Business Bullpen. It’s better to have your product or site live in the wild so you can see how your customers interact with it than it is to delay a launch by continuing to analyze (and spend money) on whether or not it needs X or Y. This could happen pre-launch, in a beta, or during a softlaunch, which is the route we took with Bubuti. A soft launch is the release of a product to the public with very little to no promotion. It gives you a decent amount of customer interaction but limit the exposure of a potential bug or oversight. With this feedback, business owners can modify content, features, and fix any issues that were raised during this initial phase before announcing or releasing their product to the world. So for Bubuti we focused on the following for our soft-launch:
- Communicating the value of Bubuti to musicians and non-profits to encourage inquiries
- Highlighting the musicians and non-profits that have launched campaigns
- Allowing customers to purchase mp3s along with the option to add donations
We designed the website based on the original logo concept and color palette that Whit brought to us. The design was tested throughout the initial development phase because we kept stripping away content and features as we narrowed in on what the soft launch would look like. For example, we did not include the ability to search for campaigns in our initial release because we could present all of the campaigns on the home page. The search feature was presented in the original designs but placed in a location on the page that enabled us to easily replace it with other content that held of equal importance.
We selected Microsoft’s .NET platform and tools to take Bubuti from concept to product. Business Bullpen’s experienced .NET resources, coupled with Microsoft programs like BizSpark and Windows Azure, make .NET a reasonable and affordable option for a startup like Bubuti. Although a relatively small application now, we decided from the onset that we would take a multi-tiered approach. We knew that the additional effort to plan for this type of architecture would be realized by ease of maintenance and future scalability. Here’s the stack breakdown:
- Presentation Layer: ASP.NET MVC to serve up the web frontend
- Service Layer: A standalone library containing all core business logic
- Data Layer: SQL Azure for data storage, layered over by Entity Framework for data access
- Hosting: Windows Azure Compute for affordable, reliable, and scalable deployments
- Storage: Windows Azure Storage for static assets and Soundcloud for audio hosting and streaming
- Ecommerce: Authorize.NET payment gateway for credit card transactions
We worked on the copy with Whit. As expected with any start-up, the messaging and ideas change a lot. We’ve rewritten text, stripped and added pages, and continue to do so based on the customer feedback that we’ve been receiving over the last few months during this initial phase. When someone new lands on your site, you have seconds to grab their attention and keep them there. Therefore, that initial message needs to be clear, concise, and intriguing. That’s why it is so critical to scrutinize your content. In addition to the copy, we work with the musicians to help build their campaigns. It’s critical that we produce a consistent product on the Bubuti site. Quality control is the key in achieving this. Instead of enabling musicians to build their campaigns online, we guide them through the process and take their assets to produce a consistent, high-quality product from the “album” image to the campaign description to the music itself. As the Bubuti team builds more campaigns with musicians, we will build out the tools that will help to enforce this quality control while making it simple for the end customer. As the owner of a start-up, it’s always a lot of fun working with other start-ups. We know what it’s like to work on fixed budgets with limited resources, but with a lot of ideas. Getting to the finish line is the most important goal for any project, but especially for a start-up. We are awfully proud of the work we have done for Bubuti and look forward to the next round of features and ideas as the product grows.